Sunday, 11 November 2012

Soft Porn Sunday: Sylvia Kristel & Jean-Pierre Bouvier

Although I know there are a number of different actresses to have played the title role - Laura Gemser, Marcela Walerstein, Holly Sampson, Natasja Vermeer, and Krista Allen to name but a few - the Emmanuelle series really started with Sylvia Kristel. She starred in the first four Emmanuelle movies, before being replaced in Emmanuelle IV by Mia Nygren (via the most contrived plot point ever - totally reconstructive plastic surgery) because, one presumes, she got a little tired of disrobing in exotic locales.

However.

She later returned to the series, and whatever may have happened in between and afterwards, Sylvia Kristel certainly left a lasting erotic legacy and was a gift to the world of soft porn. Last month she died - on 17 October 2012 - of complications. She was 60 years old and in Amsterdam. As it's Remembrance Sunday today (and the first Sunday I've had free since she died), I thought it might be a good opportunity to say here... "Goodbye, Emmanuelle".

Appearance: Goodbye Emmanuelle (1977)
Characters: Emmanuelle & Grégory

Goodbye - the third of the original Emmanuelle films - may not be the finest, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the most memorable. Why? Well, for a number of reasons. Emmanuelle is a lot more mature than who we originally saw in the first two - more sexually confident and more self-assured. It's got an incredibly memorable theme tune - I can still sing it now - and, crucially, I do remember the film even though I've only seen it once, and that was about ten years ago.

The boys in the sixth form were talking about watching it, seeing as it was on Channel 5 in their regular Friday-night-skin-slot, and although I said I didn't watch it, of course I did, ergo: when they started singing the theme song, I grinned inwardly to myself. Softcore was very different in the '70s, and this is a very good example. And - I would hope - a fitting tribute.

So. Plot. Emmanuelle is still with her husband from the first two films, but as ever, trouble comes along, in the form of Grégory (Jean-Pierre Bouvier), a handsome and tempting film director (a concept revisited years later in Emmanuelle: A Lesson in Love, where one of the characters is a film director), with whom Emmanuelle starts one of her sexy dalliances - cue the disrobing in exotic locations. This is the one I remembered the most.

The scene starts with Emmanuelle and Grégory walking naked on a beach. Immediately I'm struck by the amount of nudity there is here - you can see everything, including Emmanuelle's pubic hair, and Grégory's penis. In '77, softcore was a lot more raw... and although I do have to admit to the more polished stuff we have today, you have to accept there's a certain brazen charm to it. As both characters wander into the sea, Emmanuelle attempting a gleeful dive, you have to accept their ability to do that too! (One wonders where they filmed it. I'm guessing not in the UK.)

Emmanuelle prats around in the water for a bit before putting on a huge, beautiful smile (see the first picture above; click to embiggen) as Grégory swims up to her and they kiss, embrace and eventually begin to make love - all while staying in the water. We get a good look at both bodies as they have sex sitting up, roll about a bit and end up with him on top. This is followed by something special - her floating on top of the water while he has sex with her standing up - and for the remainder of the scene the two switch positions a few times, with a lot of kissing and touching to boot. And that's it.

It's difficult upon rewatching to put my finger on exactly what's different about this scene. I've said above that softcore was more "raw", and that's the only way I can put it. Everything here seems very real. The bodies are real, the scenery is real - it actually was filmed in the sea, you can clearly tell - and the sex seems real enough. Even Sylvia Kristel's gorgeous, radiant smile looks as real as it's going to get. I'm not completely crazy horny over this scene, it's true, but she really was a star. You can see why.

For such a long scene, I do have to wonder exactly why there isn't much variance in the sexual positions - why they didn't switch it up a bit - but actually, that makes it a little more realistic. Not every couple switches from astride to doggie to missionary to 71 every thirty seconds. The lack of variation indicates intimacy and satisfaction to me, and the way Kristel moves her body - including the things she does with her legs - manage to stop the scene being boring. It's not. It's entertaining for all of three minutes and three seconds... and that's no mean feat. The music - in a typical-for-the-'70s kind of way - is really quite uninspiring (in a contrast to the theme tune!), so bravo for holding my attention anyway, scene!

But what I do need to mention is the amount of kissing and touching. There's a lot of it, and whereas in more modern sex scenes that irritates me immensely, here it really adds an extra dimension. They're having an affair. Here, it's passionate and lusty. But the kisses, caresses, embraces - and the fact that they're having fun in the water - suggest a level of intimacy too, which you don't get in a lot of scenes. In some cases, it's like they're sharing something between themselves, and we are mere viewers. Without suggesting voyeurism.

That's how I see it, anyway.

In the modern era, we've had a lot more Emmanuelles, but people still refer back to Sylvia Kristel when talking about the series. Originally, I couldn't see why. Looking back on her now, I can. Her Emmanuelle is a beauty: an adventurous young sexy girl with a killer smile and a brilliant way of moving her body during not only this scene (although this is her best, I think) but all the times she gets involved. She brings all the facets of Emmanuelle Arsan's character to life, and wonderfully so. So I don't think that she'll ever be "my" Emmanuelle - but for her time, and to her credit, as Tim Booth would say, she was a star. And she shone brightly.

Goodbye, Emmanuelle.

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